June 2021 - 34

M E N TA L H E A LT H

PHOTO COURTESY OF JERSEY CITY DEPARTMENT OF
RECREATION AND YOUTH DEVELOPMENT

As the first line of contact for
community members, park and recreation professionals have played an
essential role in response to each of
these circumstances while simultaneously living and experiencing the
effects of these events themselves.
As a result, many in the profession
have expressed a common feeling
- empathy fatigue.
Empathy fatigue " results from a
state of psychological, emotional,
mental, physical, spiritual and occupational exhaustion that occurs
as the [individuals'] own wounds
are continually revisited by their
clients' life stories... " according
to Counseling Today (tinyurl.com/
57fww3dk). This can reveal itself
in many ways - as feelings of
guilt, sadness, apathy, exhaustion
and anxiety, or as physical symptoms, such as loss of sleep, difficulty concentrating, isolation, fatigue
or headaches. While empathy fatigue is most commonly thought
to occur among counselors, first
responders and mental health
professionals, those in other fields
- such as parks and recreation -

34	 Parks & Recreation

have become increasingly prone to
its effects as they are asked to take
on greater roles in response to our
communities' myriad challenges.
As with any mental health matter,
there is no one single cure for empathy fatigue - rather, it takes a commitment by individuals to engage
in regular self-care and to seek help
from outside resources. However,
park and recreation agencies can take
steps to support their staff 's mental
health, as they are on the front lines
every day serving the needs of communities during COVID-19.

Parks and Recreation
Responds to a Pandemic
In West Allis, Wisconsin, Recreation and Community Services
staff serving on the West Allis
Mental Health and Substance
Abuse Task Force recognized
growing mental health concerns
within the community. " We started
to see that a lot of the challenges
that were there before were really
amplified by COVID-19, " contends Shelly Strasser, director of
recreation and community services

for the West Allis-West Milwaukee
School District.
In response, staff members are
partnering with a heroin/opiate
community task force to provide
character education in their afterschool programs. In addition, park
and recreation professionals take
part in a trauma-informed care task
force that also consists of school
psychologists and student services
staff. Strasser says, " We had a
great partnership with them preCOVID-19, but it really strengthened
when they saw all that we were doing
for the students that were here in
person with us [during COVID-19], "
including providing programming for
children experiencing homelessness
or from families struggling with
mental health or substance use.
In Jersey City, New Jersey,
when parks reopened during the
pandemic on April 27, 2020, Recreation and Youth Development
staff were stationed at every park
to hand out masks and sanitizer
to patrons. " We also had employees covering the phone bank to
schedule COVID-19 testing early
on and at testing sites, and helping
out with Meals on Wheels, " says
Lucinda McLaughlin, director of
the Jersey City Department of Recreation and Youth Development.
Similar to West Allis, Jersey City
Recreation and Youth Development staff noticed that challenges
that existed prior to COVID-19
were being exacerbated by the
pandemic. " We have youth in our
community who are facing trauma
all the time; and being prepared to
deal with that is a responsibility
for everyone here who works with
In Jersey City, New Jersey, Recreation
and Youth Development staff were stationed at parks to hand out masks and
sanitizer to patrons during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

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http://www.tinyurl.com/57fww3dk http://www.tinyurl.com/57fww3dk

June 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of June 2021

June 2021 - 1
June 2021 - Cover1
June 2021 - Cover2
June 2021 - 1
June 2021 - 2
June 2021 - 3
June 2021 - 4
June 2021 - 5
June 2021 - 6
June 2021 - 7
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June 2021 - Cover3
June 2021 - Cover4
https://www.nxtbook.com/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/july-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/june-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/may-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/april-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/march-2021
https://www.nxtbookmedia.com